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Ensemble Planning Tool Used By Phoenix Science Team

Following the successful landing of the Phoenix spacecraft on Mars on May 25, the Phoenix Science Team began using Ensemble’s Planning and Scheduling Interface (PSI) to plan Phoenix operations on Mars. PSI consists of the SPIFe planning user interface and process, JPL Maestro image/targeting system, and EUROPA planner. PSI was designed at Ames, and implemented by Ames and JPL teams.

Almost all of the tools (anaglyph mode, ruler, contrast stretch, etc.) saw immediate use by the science team, and PSI was the first tool to make the full four-frame mosaic available to the team. The Science Plan Integrator (SPI) was able to drop in an observation at the request of the Robotic Arm team, position it, and validate the resource model within a matter of seconds. He would later use the thermal data presented in the resource profiles to help inform the final placement of that observation—a time of day after the temperature of the instrument had risen and stabilized. This demonstrated ability of the tool is a significant accomplishment and improvement over planning abilities from the beginning of the 2003 MER mission. Phoenix is the first flight project to make use of the SPIFe timeline, and the second flight project to use Ensemble as a critical part of their operations toolkit.

BACKGROUND: NASA’s previous approach to developing mission operations software has produced a set of powerful tools that have enabled stunning successes. But one serious limitation of these tools is that they were developed separately rather than in an integrated fashion. To use a combination of them on a mission requires interfaces between systems, and the export or translation of data.

The aptly named Ensemble, a joint Ames/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) project, is a platform for the development, integration, and deployment of mission operations software that can be reconfigured or upgraded as required during the course of a mission. Based on the popular open source Eclipse application framework and Java-based IDE, an Ensemble product is built from a selection of shared plug-ins, plus a set of mission-specific and tool-specific plug-ins.

Ames plug-ins for planning and scheduling, JPL plug-ins for data browsing and visualization, and Ames plug-ins for manipulating data in a 3D environment can be combined together or with other Ensemble plug-ins and new or legacy services to meet a mission's needs.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Mars program via the Mars Science Lab mission, Phoenix Mars Lander mission, and Mars Exploration Mission; Mars Technology Program; Space Human Factors; Constellation ETDP program

Contact: Mike McCurdy


The Phoenix Mars Lander will dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves. Phoenix launched on August 4, 2007 and reached Mars in late May 2008.

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